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Let's talk about favoritism in the workplace and how this act is unethical. However,...

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cuhuegbu | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted November 18, 2013 at 6:15 AM via web

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Let's talk about favoritism in the workplace and how this act is unethical. However, what about providers and others in clinical environments showing favoritism towards patients? Visit this link. It's a story about favoritism in the case of a liver transplant at a hospital in LA, California. The patient was 52nd on a transplant list, and the hospital received about 30% more for the procedure then they would have normally.  

MSNBC (n.d.). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9501955/

What are some of the ethical issues involved here? What about the line between law and ethics? Points to think about here would be organ selling; the two different hospitals involved (what's wrong with this situation), and more.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 18, 2013 at 6:38 AM (Answer #1)

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The ethical issues that arise from this case are generally issues about who should get donated organs.  This is a very fraught issue as there are always many more people in need of organs than there are organs to be donated.  Let us look at some of the issues that this case brings up.

The first issue is the issue of how to prioritize the potential recipients of the organs.  The story says that the Saudi man who got the organ was 52nd on the list and that one’s place on the list was determine by how sick you are and how long you have been waiting for the organ.  However, it is not clear that this is the best way to ration scarce organs.  For example, what if someone who is very sick got that way from drinking excessively?  Does that person, who essentially did harm to themselves, deserve to get another liver?  What about the family/life situation of the recipient?  Shouldn’t a young person or a parent with small children get an organ before an elderly person?  Thus, there are issues surrounding the way the list was prioritized in the first place.

That said, there is also the ethical issue of whether the hospital must stick to its procedures.  The procedure for rationing organs is not an issue of law.  It is just an issue of what is right and wrong.  Is it always right to follow procedures?  Once you have set up rules, must you follow them slavishly or can there be exceptions?

Finally, there is the issue of taking money to circumvent procedures.  Is this always unethical?  What if the extra money that the Saudi embassy paid was used by the hospital to save the lives of other people?  Would it not be ethical to take more money, bump the Saudi patient up the list, and then save someone else using the extra money?  In that case, two people would be saved instead of one.  In other words, might it not be ethical to accept money to violate protocol (not the law) if the extra money can increase the overall benefit to society gained by the transplant?

All of these are issues that are raised by this situation.

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